Medication Safety

Avoiding Household Spoons for Your Child’s Medication

Household spoons may seem handy for giving children liquid medicines, but using them could result in fatal consequences.

“Spoons are not very accurate, and people sometimes use the wrong type of spoon” said Ian M. Paul, M.D., M. Sc. FAAP, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs.

In some cases, too much medicine could be serious. For example, repeatedly giving a child too much acetaminophen could lead to liver failure.

According to Dr. Paul’s research, more than 70,000 children go to emergency rooms each year for unintentional medicine overdoses. Many of those cases are caused by using the wrong measuring device.

Alternatives to Household Spoons for Medication

Instead of household spoons, parents should use syringes or the special cup or spoon that comes with the medicine, which can be provided by a pharmacist if-needed. Carefully follow the directions for how much medicine to give, when to give it and for how long.

According to Dr. Paul, “They (parents) should make sure they understand their child’s dose of a medication and if they don’t they should ask their health care provider for the dose”.

Doctors also recommend keeping medicine out of children’s reach and using child safety caps. Check labels carefully before giving two medicines together as some may contain the same ingredients. It is also recommended that parents bring a list of all medicines taken by the child when going to a doctor visit.

Safe Disposal of Unused Medication

Parents should also be careful when disposing of unused medicines as they could potentially cause harm to the child or others. The FDA recommends the following disposal methods:

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag and throw the container in your household trash
  • Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable
  • Find out if your town offers a medicine take-back program by contacting your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service

For medicine mistakes, call the Poison Help number at 800-222-1222. If the child is unconscious, not breathing or having seizures, call 911.

Questions about your child’s medication dosage? Call the Pediatric Center of Round Rock: (512) 733-5437

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.